Scream For Me Sarajevo (Film Review)

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Scream for Me Sarajevo
Director: Hodzik, Tarik
Film: Scream for Me Sarajevo
Screened: May 10th, 2018
Run time:  1 hour, 35 minutes
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

In December of 2017, I read and reviewed the Bruce Dickinson autobiography called WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO?  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  There was an especially interesting chapter about the time he and his band traveled to Sarajevo in 1994 to perform a concert. This in itself is not unusually except for the fact that in 1994 the city was under siege during the Bosnian war.  The city was under siege fro almost four years and saw the deaths of over 13,000 people. For reasons perhaps still known only to him, Bruce Dickinson performed the one-off gig in a war zone.

Now a little over 20 years later, that single concert has become a documentary film called SCREAM FOR ME SARAJEVO.  I attended the film on it’s opening day in select theaters in North America.   It was very poorly attended maybe only 18 of us but that did not matter.   I knew of the film but what I saw was a bit unexpected.  I was sort of expecting a concert film with a bit of a documentary.  What I saw was a foreign language (sub-titled) documentary about the events leading to and after the concert.

It is hard to describe but the impact of that sole concert had a galvanizing effect on the youth of Sarajevo.  The film follows the story from the inception of the idea, the involvement (and subsequent withdrawal of support) by the UN, the promoters, the youth of the time and the band.  Through some very hard work, the logistics of arranging a concert was achieved. This included finding gear, getting the band there, this of course all had to be done in secret lest the Bosnian Serbs shelled the concert hall! The film is loaded with historical footage of the siege and laced with interviews of people who were at the concert or organizing the concert.  A couple of members of the Bruce solo band who played at the gig, traveled to the city on the 20th anniversary of the concert and were interviewed, toured around and met old friends and colleagues.  Bruce was unavailable to attend the reunion/event because of his cancer treatments but he did return a year later and that footage was incorporated into the film.

It was a very emotional film, all of the survivors and participants had many mental scars from the horrors and overall it was a very quiet, somber viewing experience, inter-spliced with horrific footage and a pounding Metal soundtrack.  This was not a happy film by any means, but a meaningful one.  The power of that one concert, not so much the concert itself, but the fact that someone came to the highly dangerous warzone to entertain, to give a message of hope, was palpable.

Following the film there was a lengthy interview with Bruce Dickinson conducted by Dom Lawson.   The questions all centered on the film, which had been making the film festival circuit over the past few months.  I’m confident it will be available on DVD/Blu-Ray and your various streaming services in the very near future.  Highly entertaining and very sobering, SCREAM FOR ME SARAJEVO expands on that unique and human interest story of one rock band, a besieged city and the unifying power of rock and roll.